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Teacher-Evaluation Reporting: Where Are the Teeth?


Andy Rotherham has a thoughtful post on the teacher-evaluation reporting proposal that the Education Department will soon be opening for public comment. Rotherham's worry, and it's a legitimate one, is that this new reporting requirement in and of itself won't have much of an effect:

"Federal policymakers have tried that approach on a range of issues from higher education to teacher education to all manner of K-12 issues and it’s had little effect. The states are pretty good at gaming the data ... Besides, is the problem really a lack of information about the problems per se? I don’t think anyone influential is sitting around wondering whether or not teacher evaluations are any good ..."

A case in point involves the teacher-college accountability requirements that began in the 1998 Higher Education Act, which compelled those institutions to report passage rates on licensing exams. Rather than using this data to identify and close poor programs, states lowered their cut scores and a lot of prep programs ended up making passage of the tests a graduation requirement, so it didn't amount to much. (The reauthorized HEA tries to address this, and I pushed Secretary of Ed Duncan to elaborate on it) in a recent interview.

I can't help but think the administration knows about these loopholes, though. It will be interesting to see if they actually put teeth in this proposal. And surely there are district officials and teachers' unions out there that can agree on a better evaluation that can be used both for instructional improvement and for accountability purposes, like those in the Teacher Advancement Program.

I'll be doing a follow-up story on the evaluation issue sometime in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, post your thoughts here, or e-mail me at [email protected] Who knows—maybe we can talk!


I find the teacher evaluation (TE) tracking proposal an exciting development in this backwater area of school reform. The importance of strong teachers and supportive leadership is unquestioned and yet the very mechanism for improving teacher quality within the schools is under-utilized. There are several reasons for this: 1) TE has little to no relationship to teacher incentives or sanctions; 2) There is little supervision/support/accountability of principals in the important task of TE; and 3) There is fundamental lack of trust in principals to carry out the task because of concerns about the necessary training and expertise to conduct valid evaluations. While a top-down mandate to track TE is fraught with problems (as most policies are); in some cases of more thoughtful educators, it might just draw attention to a powerful leverage point for needed improvements at the classroom level.

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